2019 Highlight: Avishai Cohen, Yonathan Avishai, Playing the Room, ECM

A few duo albums this year have stirred my imagination. The first was a saxophone-piano duo which was the work of Mark Lockheart and Huw Warren and now this ''Avishai & Avishai'' piano-trumpet duet is primus inter pares. Recorded in Lugano a …

Published: 8 Nov 2019. Updated: 8 months.

A few duo albums this year have stirred my imagination. The first was a saxophone-piano duo which was the work of Mark Lockheart and Huw Warren and now this ''Avishai & Avishai'' piano-trumpet duet is primus inter pares.

Recorded in Lugano a year ago this is I would describe an album of impressionism grounded in modality but at the freer end even when in terms of exuberance and “wildness” it mostly abstains and yet journeys to the soul of things via a kind of blueness.

Cohen has a lonesome faraway quality while pianist Avishai who disappointed for me anyway on Joys and Solitudes released at the beginning of 2019 is wonderful, no two ways about it, here. I have long since added Playing the Room to my albums of the year list so far. Above all … Room works because of its mastery of mood.

The choice of piece whether a take on a Stevie Wonder classic or the Sasha Argov composition ‘Shir Eres’ covered in the past memorably by Noa is immaterial up to a point because as well as mood, rapport, the capturing of time and silence – and the understanding each display as the tunes navigate their passage – is all.

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Reviewed: Gwilym Simcock trio, International Piano Trio Festival, Ronnie Scott’s, London

Returning next year to tour in quartet mode once again with Pat Metheny, according to pianist Gwilym Simcock’s manager Christine Allen, and with a landmark solo piano album already out this year, the pianist sold out Ronnie’s last night for this …

Published: 8 Nov 2019. Updated: 8 months.

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Returning next year to tour in quartet mode once again with Pat Metheny, according to pianist Gwilym Simcock’s manager Christine Allen, and with a landmark solo piano album already out this year, the pianist sold out Ronnie’s last night for this first gig by his longstanding trio in several years.

Simcock marked the occasion by writing some material for the festival and opened with ‘All Along’ a scampering tour de force. Next number ‘Victorville’ he told us was dedicated to bassist Yuri Goloubev’s interest in old aeroplanes. Later drummer Asaf Sirkis contributed the ballad ‘Portrait of a Woman’ and the second set encore was ‘How Deep is the Ocean’ Simcock prefacing the set after the intermission by telling us he had somehow ‘scalded’ his hand during the break which was a bit worrying but did not alter the quality of his formidable playing one tad.

Looking tanned and speaking in a Steve Coogan-esque lightly traced Mancunian accent he bowed enthusiastically with the other two at the end having thanked the audience for listening. Overall this was a dazzling display of effortless mastery. The trio’s take on Buster Williams’ ‘Christina’ was the runaway highlight of an engrossing evening that was full of skill and conversational insight.

Earlier the thumping techno LBT trio that Ronnie’s booker Paul Pace had talent spotted at Jazzahead this year rocked the room as the support act, the drummer even wearing ear protectors and necessarily so. The bar tender danced along like a sentry marking time contentedly to the metronomic beat.